Partial Resort Tax funding paves way for fire safety

BIG SKY TO HAVE TWO WILDLAND FIRE ENGINES BY NEXT SPRING

The wet conditions of this 4th of July provided a reprieve for the Big Sky Fire Department (BSFD) during a time of year that typically has the organization on edge. Montana – with its legendary unpredictable weather – is a state that demands preparation. By next spring Big Sky will be better able to face fire season.

“The potential is always there,” BSFD Chief Greg Megaard said, noting that August and September are particular months of concern due to the land drying-out.

BSFD received Big Sky Resort Area District (Resort Tax) funding of 50% of the cost for a type 5 wildland engine – a sort of all-terrain fire fighting vehicle with a 4-wheel-drive chassis and 500 gallon holding capacity. It is a goliath machine that also allows for the transportation of additional equipment and people in the event of a wildland fire.

Resort Tax funding was secured via an agreement that BSFD would fund a second wildland engine for the community.

The addition of these engines to BSFD will “help our ability to respond to wildland incidents not only in the Big Sky community, but in neighboring areas – to help with mutual aid,” Chief Megaard said.

Essentially, Resort Tax is paying for 50% of the first unit which is also part of a co-op agreement with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and then BSFD will look at building the second unit out of its budget, Chief Megaard explained.

Resort Tax director Grace Young said she considers wildland fires one of the most concerning things about living in the mountains – which is why she introduced the topic for discussion and made a motion.

With uncertain economic times in light COVID-19, Resort Tax has been asking organizations if they can partially share the burden of funding projects. This is in an effort to help Resort Tax dollars stretch further in the community.

“[I would like to move] that we fund $80,000 if the fire department is willing to match our $80,000 – so that our community can end up with two of these apparatuses,” Young said.

Resort Tax chairman Kevin Germain seconded the motion for discussion.

Germain asked Chief Megaard if he could do some budgetary maneuvering to secure the second wildland fire engine for the community.

“If the Resort Tax board does allocate the $80,000 we definitely could figure out how to make this possible to get the two units built and ready to go for next spring,” Chief Megaard said.

The motion for funding passed 3-1.

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